A North Carolina woman who admitted to helping traffic an estimated $3 million worth of marijuana through Saratoga County has been sentenced to time served.
Sarah Inman Shafer, 34, pleaded guilty in January in U.S. District Court in Albany to a single charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and then distributing more than 100 pounds of marijuana.
She admitted to a scheme that passed four marijuana shipments of 300 pounds each through Saratoga County in 2008 and 2009. The marijuana was transferred to the buyer at a restaurant just off Exit 16 of the Northway. The buyer estimated that the total amount paid for the shipments was $3 million.
Shafer technically faced up to 40 years in federal prison, but federal guidelines suggested a sentence of between 37 to 46 months in prison. Sentencing had been set for Monday, but was moved up to last week.
According to her New York City attorney, Johanna Zapp, Shafer’s lack of criminal history, her role in the conspiracy and other factors allowed Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe to go below the guidelines, giving her time served and two years of supervision. She also must pay $100,000 in a forfeiture.
Zapp said her client at the time in 2008 and 2009 was essentially looking for fast cash. But she was no longer in that life when she was arrested last year.
“My argument was that she is a completely different person today than what she was,” Zapp said. “And she did that on her own, without her arrest.”
“She pulled herself out of it and wanted no part of it,” Zapp said. Shafer is now a stay-at-home mother in North Carolina.
Zapp said she believes the judge was sensitive to that.
When she was arrested in 2012, Shafer realized her past had caught up with her, Zapp said.
Investigators believe much of the marijuana passed through the region to other destinations, but some stayed in the area, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Belliss has said.
Shafer was arrested in June 2012 at her North Carolina home. When confronted by investigators, Shafer allegedly admitted to introducing the buyer and seller, then later collecting payments and relaying them to the seller. She reaffirmed those statements as part of the plea agreement in January.
Investigators with the Capital District Drug Enforcement Task Force began investigating Shafer’s activities in 2011 when they met the confidential source, according to the federal complaint filed last year. That source told investigators Shafer arranged the purchase of large amounts of marijuana from Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2008 and 2009, and the delivery of that marijuana to the Capital Region.
The source first met Shafer in early 2008 at a residence in Vancouver, according to papers. The source is not named in the document, nor even identified by gender.
Shafer gave the source an encrypted BlackBerry and told the source to get prepaid cellphones. The marijuana would be trucked to the parking lot of Scotty’s Truck Stop/Restaurant, near Exit 16 of the Northway in Wilton.
Once there, the truck driver then would call the source on one of the prepaid cellphones and transfer the marijuana, concealed in black duffle bags. The source then would send an encrypted text message to Shafer to arrange payment in person.
No other arrests were made.